Phish, Magnaball Festival

From "secret set" to epic surprise

2015 - Glen

A "drive-in theatre" installation with a "vintage sci-fi" aesthetic.

Phish has been hosting multi-day camping festivals since 1996. At many of these events, the band often performs a “secret set” at an unexpected time in an unconventional set-up. For their 10th festival, 2015’s Magnaball, the band teamed up with Moment Factory to create a mammoth multimedia installation to serve as the vehicle for the band’s surprise.

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The festival took place at the Watkins Glen International speedway in Watkins Glen, New York, and the team used the infrastructure of the speedway, notably a massive scaffolding behind bleachers that overlooked the racetrack, to create the installation. To mask the bleachers and to contribute to the “vintage sci-fi” aesthetic of the festival, the team devised a ‘drive-in theatre’ scenario, transforming the bleachers into a 183 foot-long projection screen. Silver cars spotted the field as ghostly light sculptures that added a mysterious and immersive quality to the drive-in feeling and provided the ambience of an abandoned post-apocalyptic theatre during the daytime.

The “secret set” came to life at the Drive-In late on Saturday night as Moment Factory VJs played visual counterpoint to Phish’s fully improvised nearly hour-long jam. Working from a toolbox of visual assets and blending them in our VJ software, we layered custom video and stills with generative content. At one exciting moment, the band played to a giant moon moving slowly across the screen, responding with a bold rhythm. We were thrilled to join Phish in this unique collaboration, going back to our VJ roots with a live show environment.

Behind the scenes